The final decision will be made by the Arlington County Board at its meeting this Saturday, and if the Board follows County Manager Barbara Donnellan’s recommendation, it will reject the school’s historic district status.
The Wilson School was built in 1910, but has since been renovated. Preservations are hoping the County Board will designate it as a local historic district, which would require pieces of the building be preserved before it is bulldozed to make way for a new, 775-seat building to house the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program.
The Arlington School Board and Planning Commission have each recommended against the historic designation, citing cost and time concerns. The new school building is budgeted for $80.2 million and scheduled to open by September 2019.
The building, constructed in 1910 as the Fort Myer Heights school, is the oldest school structure in the county still owned by Arlington Public Schools, and the second-oldest school building overall, behind the Hume School (which now serves as the Arlington Historical Society museum).
The Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board unanimously recommended the school be granted historic district status. According to county staff, it meets six of the 11 criteria needed for historic status, when it only needs to meet two to be eligible. However, staff wrote in its report to the Board, that doesn’t mean it should be granted said status.
“Consideration of a property for local historic district designation is not based solely on the historical and/or architectural merits of the historic resource,” the report states. “There are multiple competing County interests and priorities that must be accomplished within the limited constraints of the existing site, including a larger school, athletic fields, and open space. Coupled with these site demands, the preservation of the historic Wilson School is not considered a viable alternative.”
Despite the staff’s findings — and the county’s growing need for school space — Preservation Arlington is hoping to sway the County Board to change course and grant the historic status.
“Preservation Arlington is disappointed in the staff recommendation to deny the designation,” the organization wrote on its website. “Wilson School is the oldest continuously operating school building still owned by the County. The history of the school is directly connected to our early years as a growing community and a time when we were visited by the President of the United States, which still happens today.”
If the County Board does deny the historic status, staff and the HALRB recommend exploring “the most appropriate ways to memorialize and commemorate the historical and community value of the Wilson School in the construction of a new school facility on the existing site.”
Preservation Arlington is encouraging those in favor of preserving the school to rally at the County Board meeting on Saturday, at 8:30 a.m., in the County Board room on the third floor of 2100 Clarendon Blvd.
Artisphere Executive Director Left in Feb. — Jose Ortiz, executive director of Artisphere, quietly left the position in February. Ortiz is now working as the deputy director of the Bronx Museum in New York City. Artisphere programming director Josh Stoltzfus, meanwhile, has been promoted to acting executive director of the cultural center, which is on the county’s budgetary chopping block.
CivFed: No Tax Hike — Members of the Arlington County Civic Federation approved a resolution this week urging the County Board not to approve any increase in Arlington’s real estate tax rate. Fiscal conservatives on the Civic Federation argued that the county has plenty of reserves and surpluses to tap without the need to further tax struggling homeowners. [InsideNova]
Planning Comm. Rejects Wilson School Historic Status — Arlington’s Planning Commission on Monday voted to oppose a historic designation for the Wilson School in Rosslyn, by a vote of 5-4. That follows the School Board’s unanimous vote again a historic designation for the school, which was built in 1910 but was subsequently renovated significantly from its original form. The school system says trying to preserve parts of the school would require additional time and expense as it plans to build a new facility for the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program on the site. [InsideNova]
Urban Igloo Debuts Clarendon Page — Local apartment matchmaking service Urban Igloo, an ARLnow.com advertiser, has debuted a number of neighborhood information pages, including one for Clarendon. The company says its recently revamped website makes it “one of the first real estate companies to take an online hyperlocal approach to connect renters to specific neighborhoods.” [Urban Igloo]
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
School Board Says No to Wilson School Historic Status — Any hope preservationists had of salvaging pieces of Rosslyn’s Wilson School are likely dashed. The Arlington School Board voted last night, during an abbreviated meeting, to reject the Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board’s proposal to give the Wilson School, built in 1910 at 1601 Wilson Blvd, historic protections. It has been renovated in the interim, and school officials contend the renovation diminishes its historic value. [InsideNova]
Cops Looking for Crime-Fighting Cabbie — Arlington police are trying to find a cab driver who helped them make an arrest in Pentagon City Tuesday night. An officer was trying to chase down a man suspected of stealing from a store in Pentagon City mall when the cab pulled up and the driver told the officer to hop in. The cab drove up to the suspect and the officer got out and made the arrest — but the driver left the scene before police could thank him and pay the fare. [WJLA]
Happy Hour Advertising Bill Passes — Both houses of the Virginia General Assembly have passed a bill that would allow Virginia bars to list the names of drinks they’re offering when advertising happy hour specials. Current ABC laws prohibit ads that use language like “beer and wine specials” or “discounted margaritas.” Even under the new legislation, however, bars would still be prohibited from listing the actual prices of happy hour specials in their advertising. [WTOP]
Rollover Wreck on Washington Blvd — An SUV reportedly ran into two parked cars and then rolled over on Washington Blvd last night. [Twitter]
History of Glebe Road — Why is Glebe Road so named? The road, which dates back to the mid-18th century, is not, as one might think, named after a person. [Ghosts of DC]
Flickr pool photo by Brian Irwin
Pedestrian Struck Near Eden Center — On Saturday around noon, a pedestrian was struck by an SUV in front of the Eden Center in Falls Church. The pedestrian became trapped under the SUV, prompting an Arlington County Fire Department technical rescue company to respond to the scene. [Twitter]
Power Outage at Pentagon City Mall — The Fashion Centre at Pentagon City closed two hours early Saturday night due to a power outage inside the mall. Police assisted in the evacuation of the mall, which was largely orderly but resulted in traffic jams at the exit to the parking lot due to non-working parking gates. [MyFoxDC, WUSA9]
Board Support Unlikely for Wilson School — The Wilson School in Rosslyn, which was built in 1910 but underwent significant changes in the 1950s, is unlikely to receive support for a historic designation from the Arlington School Board. Preservationists have been lobbying to save the school, but School Board members have expressed skepticism about whether the school actually is historic in its present state and whether it would be practical to preserve it. A vote is expected on Feb. 17. [InsideNova]
Fire Victim Identified — The victim of Thursday’s fatal house fire on S. Randolph Street has been identified. Family and friends said 73-year-old Dennis Lee was a retired contractor, a longtime Dallas Cowboys fan and a member of the local American Legion post. He died from smoke inhalation. In the wake of his death, firefighters plan to canvass Lee’s neighborhood to test and distribute smoke detectors. [NBC Washington – Warning: Auto-play video]
Preserving H-B’s Walls — The walls of the H-B Woodlawn secondary program are covered with more than 2,000 inscriptions from past graduating classes. School officials are considering ways to digitally preserve the painted walls when the program moves to Rosslyn in five years. [Falls Church News-Press]
Historic Designation for Wilson School? — Despite opposition from school officials, the county’s Historic Affairs and Landmark Review Board voted unanimously on Wednesday to recommend a local historic district designation for the Wilson School in Rosslyn. The Wilson School is the second-oldest school in Arlington and preservationists are trying to save it from being razed to make way for a larger building that will house the H-B Woodlawn program. [InsideNova]
Alexandria Has School Issues, Too — Like Arlington, neighboring Alexandria is also facing a school budget deficit and rising enrollment. Another issue facing Alexandria: competing with Arlington for teachers. Arlington’s average teacher salary is $76,892, compared to $73,612 in Alexandria. [Alexandria Times]
Arlington Named Top ‘Intelligent Community’ — For the third time, Arlington has been named one of the Top 7 Intelligent Communities in the world. “It is gratifying to have the Intelligent Community Forum recognize Arlington’s commitment to economic sustainability,” County Board Chair Mary Hynes said, in a statement. [Arlington Economic Development]
Destroyed N.J. Apartment Has Arlington Connection — The New Jersey apartment complex that burned to the ground, leaving hundreds homeless, is owned by Arlington-based AvalonBay Communities. The $80 million apartment complex was made from wood construction, which caused it to burn too quickly for firefighters to get it under control. [Bloomberg]
Flickr pool photo by Brian Allen
(Updated at 5:15 p.m.) The Arlington School Board voted last night to move the H-B Woodlawn program from its home on Vacation Lane to the Wilson School site in Rosslyn.
The Wilson School, which preservationists launched a petition to save last year, will be torn down and replaced with an estimated 775-seat facility house H-B Woodlawn, the Stratford program, and other, smaller programs that had been housed in the Stratford building.
The demolition and new facility will cost an estimated $80.2 million and be completed by the start of the 2019-2020 school year.
As part of the School Board’s goal of building 1,300 new middle school seats by 2019, it will be constructing a $29.2 million renovation of the Stratford building and convert it into a neighborhood middle school with 1,000-seat capacity.
Arlington Public Schools staff will also determine which sites to recommend spending up to $16.6 million on renovating or building additions for 300 more middle school seats. Where those seats will be, according to APS staff, will be decided “no later than the next” Capital Improvement Plan process.
The plan the School Board approved is similar to the one endorsed by Superintendent Patrick Murphy last month. They elected the plan over building a neighborhood middle school at the Wilson School site and building a middle school at the Reed/Westover building.
School Board Chair James Lander and Board member Emma Violand-Sanchez both said they opposed building a neighborhood school in Rosslyn two months ago.
“I still look at middle school kids, 1,300 middle school kids needing more green space, more fields,” Violand-Sanchez said at the time. Lander said the site is “not one that would be my first option.”
School Board member Abby Raphael, who said at that same meeting that she would be open to seeing a neighborhood school at the Wilson site, voted against the motion.
“I myself believe that a 1,300-seat, or even 1,000-seat, neighborhood school at the Wilson School was the best option for us,” Raphael said. “We have students in that area, it is a growing neighborhood, many students would have been able to walk to that school, it would have been one project, and it would have been cost effective.”
During a community meeting on the middle school capacity options in October, parents expressed support for using the Wilson School as a facility.
“I don’t know what should go in there, but I think that [the Wilson School] needs to be considered,” Ponappa Paleyanda, who lives near the site in the North Highlands neighborhood, said at the time. “It’s urban, and we live in an urban setting. It would give kids the ability to be put in settings they otherwise wouldn’t encounter in school.”
The motion carried 3-1, with Lander, Violand-Sanchez and Nancy Van Doren voting in support.
“I think the vast majority of this, we have a consensus on, and I think we should all take a breath and realize we’ve done really, really well here,” Van Doren said, emphasizing the lengthy community process and a final decision that appears to bring “1,300 secondary school seats, within budget, on time, by 2019.”
The School Board’s decision will be disappointing to preservationists, who have argued that the 104-year-old Wilson School is historic in nature and should be preserved.
Tejada Rips Streetcar Decision — Arlington County Board member Walter Tejada made a forceful seven-and-a-half minute speech at Saturday’s Board meeting, ripping into the decision to cancel the county’s streetcar project. Tejada said the county government “has failed” and wasted the time of those involved in the streetcar’s 15-year planning process. Tejada was joined by two members of the public who spoke out against the decision. [Blue Virginia, Washington Post]
Wilson School Supporters Speak Out — Supporters of the Wilson School in Rosslyn are making what might be a last push to save the 104-year-old building — which they claim is historic — from potential demolition. Stan Karson, president of the nearby Radnor/Fort Myer Heights Civic Association, told the School Board week that “if you tear down Wilson School, you are saying to Arlington students history is important only in the classroom, not in the board room.” Meanwhile, Karson wrote in a newspaper letter to the editor that “the concerned community has been silenced.” [InsideNova, Washington Post]
Abby Raphael Won’t Seek Reelection — School Board member Abby Raphael says she will not seek reelection in 2015 and has no plans to run for County Board. Raphael is on her second term on the School Board. Some believe she may have her sights set on a state-level office. [InsideNova]
Moran Laments ‘Demagoguing’ Left — Retiring Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) says the left wing of the Democratic party is starting to pick up some traits of the Republican party’s Tea Party wing. Moran said liberal Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) was “demagoguing” the issue of financial reform by opposing a compromise spending bill — a bill that avoided a government shutdown but contained some changes to the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law. [Blue Virginia]
Board Approves Bond Refinancing — Arlington County will save $147,000 a year over the next 16 years thanks to a refinancing of three wastewater and water system bonds. The County Board unanimously approved the refinancing on Saturday. [Arlington County]
Photo courtesy Dave Prentice
The H-B Woodlawn secondary program should move to the Wilson School site in Rosslyn, Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Patrick Murphy told the School Board yesterday.
Murphy recommended moving the H-B and Stratford programs to a new, 900-seat facility at 1601 Wilson Blvd and renovating the Stratford building they currently occupy on Vacation Lane into a 1,000-seat middle school.
If the School Board were to take Murphy’s recommendation, it would mean at least 1,197 additional middle school seats — between H-B, Stratford and the new middle school — by September 2019. APS projects the capital projects could cost as little as $114.5 million, which would free up $11.5 million to build 300 seats in expansions at existing middle schools.
The School Board’s adopted Capital Improvement Program stipulated that the secondary seat plan for 2019 build 1,300 additional seats for no more than $126 million. The “high” estimate for the two projects, according to APS, comes in at $147.2 million — which would be over budget and below the number of seats required, as it would not allow the 300 seat expansion at existing schools.
Murphy recommended what APS referred to as the “SWE3” option, one of six the School Board and APS are mulling. All of the options still on the table involved some combination of work at either or both of the Stratford and Wilson sites. The SWE3 option is the only option with a “low” cost estimate below $126 million and with a seat expansion of more than 1,100.
The other options that would have provided more seats than Murphy’s recommendation were: moving H-B and Stratford to the Wilson school and building a 1,300-seat neighborhood middle school on Vacation Lane (the SW option) and building a 1,300-seat secondary school at Wilson. The Wilson plan is projected to cost more than $126 million and the SW option’s lowest cost estimate is $126 million, leaving no financial flexibility, despite adding 1,497 seats.
Previously, APS was considering moving H-B Woodlawn to the Reed School/Westover Library site, but staunch community opposition and losing the location as a possible future elementary school eliminated it from contention earlier this month.
The School Board will conduct a public hearing on the secondary school capacity on Dec. 3 before voting on its plan Dec. 18.
(Updated on Oct. 24 at 10:15 a.m.) The option to make the Wilson School site in Rosslyn a new, 1,300-seat middle school does not appear to have support on the Arlington County School Board.
Although no final decision will be made until December on Arlington’s plan to construct school facilities for 1,300 middle school seats by 2019, School Board Chair James Lander and School Board member Emma Violand-Sanchez both said last night they are not in favor of an urban middle school location.
“I still look at middle school kids, 1,300 middle school kids needing more green space, more fields,” Violand-Sanchez. She also said that, despite the strong support for keeping the H-B Woodlawn program in its current home at the Stratford building, “alternative programs have been moved. I know that H-B Woodlawn is a very, very valuable program. It’s an outstanding school. However, sometimes we may have to be open to see if there’s options for movement.”
Lander echoed Violand-Sanchez’s comments, saying “It is still my preference that the [Wilson School] site is not one that would be my first option.”
School Board member Abby Raphael, however, said she believes “the Wilson School site is a viable option.” New School Board member Nancy Van Doren did not express an opinion on the issue at the School Board’s meeting last night.
The School Board will vote on Dec. 18 to determine which middle school plan they would move forward with:
- Building a 1,000-1,300-seat neighborhood school at the Wilson site
- Building an 800-seat secondary school at the Wilson site and expanding the Stratford building to 1,300 seats
- Building 1,300 seats in additions onto the Reed/Westover Library site and Stratford
- Building 1,000 seats in additions onto the Reed/Westover or Wilson sites and 300 seats onto an additional middle school
The vote will be cast before either Barbara Kanninen or Audrey Clement — running against each other for the vacant School Board seat — are sworn in in January.
One option that appears to no longer be on the table is constructing additions onto four existing middle schools. The plan, which was the least-preferred by Arlington Public Schools staff, was determined to be too expensive and complicated relative to the others.
Thirty-six speakers from the public spoke before the Board, many of whom were advocating for keeping H-B Woodlawn in its current location. One of those speakers was Elmer Lowe, the president of the Arlington chapter of the NAACP, who said if the School Board decided to make Stratford a neighborhood school site, it would be turning its back on the country’s racial history.
Making Stratford a neighborhood school “was added on very late in the process in response to intense pressure and lobbying from parents in the surrounding neighborhood,” Lowe said. “It should be noted that these neighborhoods are made up almost entirely of white, affluent families… Choosing the neighborhood school option, which means that the current diverse and high-achieving student body would be moved out and the new students coming in from the neighborhood. It would therefore approximate the segregated student body that existed before the former Stratford Junior high School (integrated) in 1959.”
Lowe, who received applause for his speech, was not directly addressed by School Board members, but Lander and Violand-Sanchez both mentioned preserving diversity in their comments.
“The diversity issue often comes up, and folks manipulate the conversation to strategically make a point, and sometimes I take offense to that because, Arlington, I sometimes say, is a great party with a huge cover charge,” Lander said. “The population in Arlington is what it is. The Board and the county does not control, nor should they penalize for, where people live. I want a diverse school system. There’s people who prioritize what’s most important for their child. And we all have that right.”
Photo courtesy Preservation Arlington
APS Enrollment Still Rising — This fall, Pre-K through 12 enrollment in Arlington Public Schools is expected to rise to 23,956 students, up from 23,316 last year and 22,657 two years ago. Despite accommodating more students, Superintendent Patrick Murphy said the first day of school was “a big success.” [InsideNova]
Letter From Arlington to Mrs. Wilson — Arlington County wrote to President Woodrow Wilson’s widow in 1926 to ask permission to name a new school in her late husband’s memory. The resulting Wilson School is located at 1601 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn. The school building may be torn down in the near future to make way for a new school, to help Arlington Public Schools add more capacity. [Preservation Arlington]
APS Has Football Concussion Plan — Arlington Public Schools has implemented a system-wide concussion management plan for high school football players. In addition, APS is the lone school system in the area to report changing over to only the highest-rated concussion-preventing helmets over the summer. [WUSA9 — Warning: Auto-play video with audio on]
D.C. Discusses Bike Ban on Streetcar Path — The District of Columbia is considering banning bicycles in the streetcar guideway on H Street NE. Instead, cyclists would be encouraged to utilize bike routes on road parallel to H Street, even though some complain that those roads are in poor condition for bicycling. [NBC Washington — Warning: Auto-play video with audio on]
Flickr pool photo by Mike Darnay
The Jamestown Elementary PTA wrote to County Board Chair Jay Fisette on Monday, asking him to work with the School Board on a middle school construction plan as part of the County Board’s 2015-2024 Capital Improvement Plan.
The PTA is peeved that APS waffled in its recently-passed CIP, punting a decision on the location for a new middle school to December and only including planning funds instead of construction funds. It comes at a time when the county’s student population — especially on the elementary level — is burgeoning, thanks to more young families moving to or staying in Arlington to raise their kids.
If a new middle school is not built soon, current kindergarteners could enter middle school in 2020 at a time when Arlington middle schools are over capacity by more than 1,000 students, with most of the overcrowding focused in north Arlington, the PTA said.
“The proposed CIP can only be regarded as an APS plan knowingly to overcrowd Williamsburg and other middle schools in north Arlington and degrade the learning environment for thousands of the county’s middle school students,” Jamestown PTA president Thomas Jensen wrote.
The School Board has eyed both the Wilson School site in Rosslyn and the building that currently houses the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program as possible locations for a new 1,300 seat middle school. Both proposals have met community criticism.
The Wilson School and H-B Woodlawn options are still on the table, according to a school spokesman, and the School Board says it will make a decision no later than Dec. 31. But the PTA wants more decisive action and planning.
“Lack of unanimity about use of the Wilson site is not an adequate reason to allow Williamsburg and other middle schools to become even more overcrowded,” Jensen wrote.
The full letter, after the jump.